Eating raw vegan at Vitao; vegan pizza at Zizzi & Pizza Express

I’ve written about Zizzi before, back in my pre-vegetarian & vegan days. But having paid them another visit to take advantage of the 2-for-1 offer on vegan mains – running Sunday to Thursday all through Veganuary – another post on the subject is due, coupled with a little review of the vegan option I recently sampled at Pizza Express.

Off-topic, but briefly, I’d like to mention my lunch-time fuel on a recent trip to London: devoured at Vitao, a little raw vegan cafe. Ideal for tourists and workers alike, a plate or box is bought prior to loading every particle of space with buffet-style food. Although I sat down to a very un-photogenic box of amalgamated salads, hummous, curries and alfalfa sprouts, the overlapping flavours were glorious. We shared a slice of raw vegan chocolate cake topped with ganache, god-sent from heaven. The whole affair was very quick, as we were starving, but it was thoroughly energising: perfect for workers on their lunch hour, or tourists keen to sight-see as much as possible. If you’re in Soho and in dire need of good food, whether you’re raw vegan or not, I would recommend Vitao for a quick fix.

So, vegan pizzas. Can I just thank Zizzi for an offer actively encouraging those who are curious about veganism? If a vegan pizza is cheaper than anything else on the menu, then unless you are a fussy eater, it makes perfect sense to save some money. To serve specifically vegan mains legitimises vegan food as a separate entity, to those who are sceptical of its worth; it is not merely omnivorous fare stripped of the meat and dairy. The only aspect I’d disagree with is the necessity to ask for the separate ‘allergens and dietary requirements’ menu, as it perpetuates the idea that veganism is a special or faddy diet for an alternative few. Why not expand the menu a little to encompass all?

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Classic vegan margherita at Zizzi

On offer were the classic margherita and a larger ‘rustica’ version, with a tomato base and coconut-based cheese; three additional toppings were charged at 80p each, ranging from balsamic tomatoes, artichokes, spinach, and roasted garlic cloves. I chose sun-dried tomatoes, roasted peppers and mushrooms, with a side of tenderstem broccoli. My apprehension grew as I waited for it to arrive: I was desperate to like this alternative to a food I’d once worshipped, and praying that the coconut would not linger on my tastebuds. My fears were not realised. Although definitely not much akin to the real thing, there was still an odd ring of cheesiness about the rather thin substance on my pizza. I’d have liked a thicker smothering of the stuff: but never mind. The tomato base was very defined in flavour, not like the more pitiful offering at Pizza Express, which I’ll get on to shortly. On the whole, my first vegan pizza was a pleasant experience. I didn’t feel uncomfortable or bloated after eating, and my gut did not react badly to the much higher intake of oil it was confronted with – takeaway food is something I’ve never much enjoyed, originally from a fear of fat and calories, and then more naturally from realising it’s often tasteless.

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Vegan Pianta at Pizza Express

The vegan option at Pizza Express is the ‘Pianta’, made with no cheese, and arriving with a layer of spinach over mushrooms, pine kernels, artichokes, and tomato. What is fantastic about Pizza Express is their willingness to use your own vegan cheese, brought in from home, on any pizza. Bringing in your own ingredient would normally be an imposition to a chef, but with this, vegans and the lactose-intolerant aren’t made to feel like outsiders. Next step: introduce an option of dairy or non-dairy cheese, as Zizzi has implemented. My first pizza was inferior to Zizzi’s in terms of taste; while the former was average, the latter was good. And, they kindly accepted my offer code despite it being invalid on a weekend – most definitely customer service to appreciate.

Thanks for reading!

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